Eris, Greek Goddess of Discord

Trojan War Veterans Say "Thanks a Lot, Eris!"

The rollicking wedding of Peleus and Thetis, which Eris ruined. Heritage Images/Contributor/Getty Images

In Greek mythology, Eris was the goddess of discord or the personification of strife. She caused a lot of trouble when she got up to mischief, but the Greeks soon learned that they had to honor Eris … or else!

Bad to the Bone

Eris - a.k.a. "Strife" in a lot of modern translations of Greek texts - was a problem child from birth. In his Theogony, Hesiod lists her mama as Night (Nyx), who, without having a guy around, spawned her own kids.

Her brood wasn't the nicest group of kids: it included the Fates, Doom, and Death. Hesiod adds, "Also deadly Night bare Nemesis (Indignation) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit and Friendship and hateful Age and hard-hearted Strife." Talk about starting out life on the wrong foot!

Eris's own children were ones to make a black-hearted mother proud. According to Hesiod, "...abhorred Strife bare painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon earth when anyone wilfully swears a false oath."

In another of his great texts, , Hesiod - or his brother, Perses, who's the narrator - says that there were two kinds of Erises/Strifes. One is the Eris we think of today, the "one [whp] fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due." This is the one Homer dubs, in Book IV of the Iliad, "sister and friend of murderous Mars," a.k.a. Ares, meaning she'd be the daughter of Zeus and Hera.

But there's also the daughter of Nyx and Zeus, who bears the same name; she encourages men to be ambitious. Writes Hesiod, " she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with is neighbour as he hurries after wealth." Sure, Eris II causes jealousy amongst men, but she fosters good competition in the process.

The Wedding That Went to Hades

​Eris is perhaps most famous for her role in starting the Trojan War. Some, like Apollodorus in his Epitome, ​say that Zeus just wanted his baby girl, Helen, to be famous, so he made sure a war started over her. But the more common story starts when Zeus fell for a nymph named Thetis.

The only problem, besides the fact he was already married: Thetis was destined to bear her husband or lover a son that was greater than his dad, as Prometheus prophesies in Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound. Given that was a problem Zeus faced with his own father, Cronus (whom he overthrew), the king of the gods decided he couldn't hit on Thetis … so he gave her to a great mortal hero, Peleus. It was fine if that guy had a really great kid!

As Thetis and Peleus planned their wedding ,they deliberately left Eris off the invite list. They wanted a peaceful wedding. But Eris was ticked off, so, in revenge, she tossed the infamous Apple of Discord amongst the guests. The apple said "to the fairest" on it, so only the most beautiful of the goddesses present should possess it. 

Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera began to argue over the rightful owner of the apple. They couldn't decide among themselves who deserved it, so "Zeus commanded Hermes to lead them to [Paris] Alexander on [Mount] Ida in order to be judged by him," recalls Apollodorus.

Paris wasn't yet a prince of Troy: he had been cast out at birth because of a dream his mother, Hecuba, had when she was pregnant that intimated he'd bring destruction to Troy. At that time, he was just a local hottie living as a shepherd, but he had such a reputation for his good looks that Zeus deemed him worthy to judge between the goddesses.

The three contestants decided to offer bribes to the judge. "Hera said that if she were preferred to all women, she would give him the kingdom over all men; and Athena promised victory in war, and Aphrodite the hand of Helen," according to Apollodorus. Paris wasn't the smartest guy: he chose Helen, who was, of course, the most beautiful woman in the world - and already married! So he gave the apple to Aphrodite, who helped him abduct Helen - and kicked off the Trojan War.

And the wedding where the whole problem started off a marriage that, while dysfunctional, also produced Achilles, Greek hero of the Trojan War.

-Edited by Carly Silver